Makes 8 tartlets
Never heard of a Bretonne? I hadn't either until one of my bakers, who had worked in Belgium, made one for me. These are individual, almond-topped apple tarts, with small cubes of fruit in a custardy filling—don't forget a scoop of ice cream.
Baker's Note: The apples must be peeled and cut into uniform 1/3-inch cubes. One at a time, stand an apple on the work surface. Using a large knife, cut a 1/2-inch-thick slice from one side of the apple. Make another thick slice, stopping just short of the tough core. Stack the slices in their natural formation and keep them together. Turn the apple 90 degrees, and cut off two more slices in the same manner. Repeat twice, turning the apple 90 degrees after each double-cut. Repeat with the remaining apples. Discard the core trimmings.
Cut the stacks lengthwise into 1/3-inch-wide strips. Cut across the strips at 1/3-inch intervals to create 1/3-inch cubes. Repeat with the remaining apple quadrants.
1. Position a rack in the bottom third of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees F.
2. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough 1/8 inch thick. Following the instructions below (Fitting the Dough into the Pan), line eight 3-3/4 by 3/4-inch tartlet pans with removable bottoms with the dough. Pierce the bottom of each tartlet in a uniform pattern with a fork. Freeze for 15 minutes.
3. Place the tartlet pans on a half-sheet pan. Line each with a round of parchment paper and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake until the pastry is set and dry but not beginning to brown, about 15 minutes. Remove from the oven. Remove the parchment paper and the weights. Let cool.
4. Meanwhile, mix the apples, sugar, and lemon juice in a medium bowl. Set aside for 30 minutes. Transfer the apples to a large colander set over a medium bowl and drain the excess juice. Return the apples to their bowl. Stir in the flour and vanilla seeds.
5. To make the vanilla cream, using a handheld electric mixer on high speed, beat the egg yolks, confectioners' sugar, and vanilla seeds in a small bowl until thickened and light in color, about 2 minutes. Add the butter, then the flour, and beat until very pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Set aside.
6. To make the almond topping, whisk the egg whites in a medium bowl until foamy. Whisk in the sugar. Add the almonds and mix gently with your hands (which work better than a spoon for this job) until the almonds are well coated; take care not to break the almonds. Set aside.
7. For each tartlet, using a tablespoon, place the vanilla cream in the cooled shells. Spread evenly with a small offset spatula. With an ice-cream scoop, add apple filling to each tartlet, leaving the filling mounded. Using your hands, spread the almond topping thinly and evenly over the apples, masking the apples as best you can. Place the tartlets on a half-sheet pan lined with parchment paper to catch any drips that might occur.
8. Bake, rotating the pan halfway through, until the crusts are golden brown and the tartlets feel firm when gently pressed with your finger in the center, about 30 minutes. The apple juices may bubble over the sides of the tartlet pans.
9. Let cool in the pans for 10 minutes, no longer. Remove the sides of the pans. Cool completely on a wire rack. Remove the bottoms of the pans. Lightly sift confectioners' sugar on top. Serve at room temperature, with whipped cream or ice cream.
When the dough is the right thickness, roll it up onto the rolling pin. For a pie, unroll the dough over the pan. Fit the dough into the pan, pressing it gently into the corners. If necessary, trim any excess dough, leaving a 3/4- to 1-inch overhang. Fold over the overhang so the fold is flush with the edge of the pan. To flute the dough, use the end of a thin wooden spoon or a chopstick and press it around the edge of the pie at 1/2-inch intervals, supporting the dough with one hand while you use the other to do the fluting.
For a tart, unroll the dough over a tart pan with a removable bottom. There is no need to butter the pan-the dough has plenty of butter. Gently ease the dough into the pan, letting the excess hang over the edge of the pan. Press the dough firmly against the sides of the pan, being sure to form a distinct right angle where the sides meet the bottom. Run the meaty part of your palm around the circumference of the pan to press and remove the excess dough, reserving the fallen dough. Using your forefinger, quickly and firmly press the dough into the grooves around the sides of the pan, taking care not to press too hard or the dough will be too thin and burn during baking. This may sound like a minor detail, but it helps strengthen the sides of the crust. (If you have pressed too hard and can see the pan through the dough, use some of the reserved dough to patch the area.) Go around the pan again, pressing the dough against the sides of the pan, letting the dough peek about 1/16 inch above the edge of the pan. This final adjustment makes the dough stand a smidge taller, and will compensate for the shrinkage that will occur when the pastry is baked. If the dough is to be prebaked, pierce the bottom of the shell with a fork in a uniform pattern. Do not pierce the sides, as this will only weaken the shell.
For tartlets, use a 6-inch metal entremet ring (or a saucer and knife) to cut out rounds of dough, and follow the instructions for lining the pans.
For both pie and tart shells, the dough-lined pan should be frozen for 15 minutes to chill and firm the dough, which helps it keep its shape during baking. There's no need to wrap the pan in plastic if you are going to bake within 15 minutes or so. If you need more time, cover the dough. The dough-lined pans can be wrapped tightly in plastic and frozen overnight. Do not thaw the dough, but add a few more minutes for baking.
This page created December 2010
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